COW­BOY COUN­TRY

Denise Bai­ley finds her in­ner cow­girl in Texas

Friday - - Travel -

Ithink from now on we’ll call you Bang-Bang Bai­ley,” says the friendly re­cep­tion­ist at the Mayan Dude Ranch. I’ve been ini­ti­ated into the Mayan Gang of mod­ern­day cow­boys and cow­girls, and as the Texas city lim­its fade with the last drops of burn­ing red sun, I’m get­ting to grips with life in the world’s cow­boy cap­i­tal.

The likes of John Wayne and JR Ewing may have put this Amer­i­can Stet­son-stud­ded state on the map, but in­creased ac­ces­si­bil­ity has rein­vig­o­rated global in­ter­est in Texas. For now, I’ve left the city be­hind me, driv­ing two hours out of town to Bandera, a cos­mopoli­tan place char­ac­terised by vast fields, big trucks and mo­tor­bikes.

My in­tro­duc­tion to cow­boy cul­ture is at the OST Restau­rant in Main Street. A whole room is ded­i­cated to John Wayne, and staff are happy to share friendly ban­ter about The Duke as I fill up on en­chi­ladas.

I don’t meet a mod­ern-day cow­boy un­til we ar­rive at the ranch, where tourists can sad­dle up with stir­rups and spurs and live ranch life for a few days. My ed­u­ca­tion be­gins with a two-hour ride through the dusty parched grounds. Re­turn­ing to the cor­ral af­ter bid­ding my horse, a very pa­tient Mr Pepsi, farewell, we en­joy a hot, com­pet­i­tive and fun-filled archery les­son from the aptly named ex-pro David Archer.

I rarely man­age to hit my tar­get but David as­sures me there’s still time yet to hone my cow­girl skills.

Later we toast our achieve­ments – and, in my case, many misses over a sim­ple, yet de­li­cious din­ner of steak, pota­toes and salad while be­ing ser­e­naded by a coun­try singer. The en­ter­tain­ment continues when we leap into some line-dancing and, to my ut­ter de­light and won­der, dance with a real-life cow­boy!

But if you think Texas is all about bows, ar­rows and las­sos, you’re mighty wrong!

Say­ing good­bye to Mayan in the morn­ing, we head to San An­to­nio. The sec­ond most pop­u­lated city in Texas, named af­ter Saint Anthony of Padua, it’s a colourful, laid-back place, with strong Span­ish in­flu­ences at ev­ery street cor­ner. Im­pos­ing boule­vards are

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